It's been just under three months since EVE Online's exploration-focused Odyssey expansion went live, bringing in a new hacking minigame and significantly buffing the underused tier 1 and tier 2 battleships. With a complete rebalancing all of the tech 1 sub-capital ships now complete, CCP has turned its attention to some of the oldest tech 2 ships in the game: Heavy Assault Ships and Command Ships. Developers have been testing out changes to these ships on the test server and hitting up players for feedback since Odyssey went live, and the results are finally ready to deploy.
Odyssey 1.1 will go live in two days time on September 3rd and contains some pretty big changes that are sure to shake up the PvP landscape. Medium-sized long-range weapons have been buffed beyond all recognition, and a buff to active tanking may soon make it viable in PvP. Heavy Assault Ships and Command Ships have been beefed up, the Dominix is getting a small nerf following its absolute dominance in the Alliance Tournament, and the Nosferatu energy vampire module may be about to make a return to PvP setups.
In this week's EVE Evolved, I analyse the upcoming Odyssey 1.1 patch and what the new ship balance changes mean for the average player.
Ship Cruiser buff
Players have referred to Heavy Assault Ships as Heavy Assault Cruisers since they were first released back in 2004, and with Odyssey 1.1, that will now be the official name. HACs can pack almost the same offensive capabilities and tank as a battleship into something the size of a cruiser, making them great for fleets that need high mobility. That role will be augmented in Odyssey 1.1 with tanking bonuses and a new role bonus that reduces the signature radius penalty of microwarpdrives by 50%. This might not seem like a lot, but it will significantly reduce damage taken when approaching a target and will be an absolute god-send to close-range setups.
The Sacrilege is losing most of its turret hardpoints in exchange for a small reduction in mass and swaps its capacitor bonus for a missile velocity one. The Cerberus is gaining an additional launcher hardpoint, enough powergrid and CPU to fit the extra launcher, and a big enough drone bay to field three light drones. The Eagle is retaining its bonus to shield resistances but trades its utility high slot for a sixth mid slot to flesh out its tank. The Deimos also loses its utility high slot but swaps its microwarpdrive capacitor bonus for a potentially more useful 7.5% per level increase to armour repairer effectiveness. And though the Zealot won't be getting any specific attention, all HACs will be gaining around 15-25km base lock range, 7-8 sensor strength, and 18-36% extra base capacitor recharge.
Looking at the Ishtar, Vagabond, and Muninn
By far the biggest changes have been to the Ishtar, Vagabond and Muninn. The Ishtar has been refocused into a heavy drone platform, dropping its bonus to medium hybrid turrets but gaining a bonus to the speed and tracking of heavy drones. This should let it hit smaller ships more easily with heavy drones, and we may see many switching from Ogres to Berserkers to maximise the effect of this bonus. The Ishtar's drone bay capacity bonus has been rolled into the ship's base stats and replaced with 7.5% per level to sentry drone optimal range and tracking speed. The ship also loses a high slot but gains a turret hardpoint, allowing it to fit a full rack of four turrets.
The Vagabond loses its launcher hardpoint, which wasn't used much in practice as the sixth high slot was more often used for an energy neutraliser. The ship has also lost its 5% max velocity bonus from the Minmatar Cruiser skill, but its base speed has increased by 19% to compensate, and it also gets a new 7.5% bonus per level to shield boost amount. With only four mid slots and at least two needed for a microwarpdrive and tackle, the only fittings that this will be useful for with the update will be using Ancillary Shield Boosters. The Muninn has been refocused into an armour-tanked turret-based role, losing one high slot and two launcher hardpoints in exchange for a sixth low slot. The sixth low slot can be used for another damage or tracking module to make it a more effective sniper or to buff its tank.
Command ship overhaul
Command Ships were original envisioned as tanky ships for PvP fleet commanders to fly in the thick of combat, but that scenario never really materialised. The enemy will often try to take out your fleet commander to send your fleet into disarray, so many fleet commanders opt instead to fly safer capital, speed-tanked, long-range, or even cloaked ships. The Command Ship's secondary function of giving large fleet-wide bonuses is incredibly useful, but many people simply park the ship safely at a starbase or safespot in the system to give bonuses. Odyssey 1.1 aims to change this by making it impossible to activate a warfare link from inside a starbase forcefield.
To incentivise using Command Ships on grid, CCP is making sure every ship has significant resistance and tanking bonuses that should make it an unappealing primary target. All Command Ships will now be able to run three command links for fleet boosting, though the bonuses given by links have been decreased slightly. Players have historically used Command Ships as beefed up HACs by fitting energy neutralisers and extra weapons in the high slots normally intended for command links. Odyssey 1.1 makes this more difficult by decreasing the powergrid requirements of warfare links to 0 and removing the excess powergrid from the Command Ships. All of these changes should combine to make it slightly more attractive to fly a Command Ship in a fleet.
Tanking changes and the active tanking niche
The single change in Odyssey 1.1 with the biggest potential to disrupt the PvP landscape is a flat increase of 15% to all sub-capital shield boosters and armour repairers. Active tanking loses effectiveness in PvP when the size of PvP gangs gets over three or four players, as the damage you can repair becomes a smaller percentage of the incoming damage. Buffer tanks with high resistances and plenty of hitpoints will usually last longer in fleet PvP, and most fleets fly with a few dedicated logistics ships to repair damage. This works out to be a lot more efficient than everyone having his own local armour repairer or shield booster.
Active tanks are essential in PvE where damage is consistent but low, and they do occupy a niche in piracy and some small-scale corporate and wormhole PvP. A 15% buff will increase the threshold of incoming damage before active tanks become mathematically less effective than passive tanks, increasing the size that gangs can get before active tanking goes out the window. This will help to compensate for the slow creep in damage that's occurred over the past few expansions and keep active tanking in its small PvP niche. Ancillary Shield Boosters won't be buffed in the patch, which makes sense to me as I recently discussed how tanks using the Ancillary Shield Booster are almost equivalent to passive tanks.
Medium weapon buffs and the Nosferatu returns
Medium-sized long-range weapons have been underwhelming in both PvE and PvP for several years now. Pulse lasers fit with Scorch M crystals often out-damage Beam Lasers at an equivalent range, Artillery Cannons cycle too slowly, and Railguns hit about as hard as a marshmallow gun. All of these problems are being addressed in the patch; Medium Beam Lasers will be getting +25% damage at the cost of -10% tracking speed, Medium Artillery Cannons trade -5% tracking speed for +10% rate of fire, and Medium Railguns lose %15% tracking speed but gain both 15% rate of fire and 15% damage.
Nosferatu modules used to be a feature in nearly every PvP setup until they were nerfed years ago to drain capacitor only if your capacitor percentage is lower than the enemy's. This made the module function unreliably, and it was largely replaced in PvP setups by the Energy Neutraliser. After the patch, the Nosferatu will drain the enemy if his remaining capacitor amount is higher than yours rather than capacitor percentage. The change means it's no longer possible to realistically drain capacitor from a ship much smaller than your own, but that you're almost guaranteed to drain capacitor from a ship larger than your own. It will now function as a useful tool for ships fighting up a size class, but the low drain amount and high fitting requirements may still leave it largely unused.
The boosts to medium-sized long-range weapons is long overdue, and the active tanking boost will definitely help counteract some of the damage power creep from the tech 1 ship overhaul. I'll also be watching the usage of Nosferatu with some interest. While I'd love to see it make a comeback as a useful module for fighting up a size class, I don't think it drains enough capacitor to be worth a high slot. It will likely find a small niche with dedicated tacklers, who will use it to keep their speed modules and warp scramblers running even while under the effect of energy neutralisers.
It's not all smiles and rainbows in Odyssey 1.1, unfortunately. The recently buffed Dominix is getting a small nerf to its bonus to sentry drone tracking speed and optimal range, down from 50% at level 5 Gallente Battleships to 37.5%. People have said this is a reaction to the Dominix tearing it up at this year's Alliance Tournament, but being able to snipe frigates from 130km away was honestly a little ridiculous, so the nerf does make sense.
Overall, I'm really looking forward to Tuesday's patch and most of all to spending time figuring out new ship setups for the revamped HACs and Command Ships. I think the bonus of warfare links really needs to be limited to ships on the grid before people will actually use them as intended, but we'll have to wait and see how they turn out. As a big fan of Heavy Assault Cruisers, though, I can't wait for my Deimos to finally be actually worth flying into PvP.
Brendan "Nyphur" Drain is an early veteran of EVE Online and writer of the weekly EVE Evolved column here at Massively. The column covers anything and everything relating to EVE Online, from in-depth guides to speculative opinion pieces. If you have an idea for a column or guide, or you just want to message him, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.